Step-by-step chapter creation guide
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Note: The chapter recognition process is currently being reviewed to ensure that all newly approved chapters are active sustainable organisations. In the meantime, we recommend the user group model for both incorporated and unincorporated organisations. Please contact the Affiliations Committee to discuss what is the best way for you to achieve your goals, and get the help and support you need in furthering the Wikimedia mission the way you want to.
This document is intended to be an easy to read introduction into the process of chapter creation. While it probably is not exhaustive and does not take into account differences between jurisdictions, it is the first stop for anyone thinking of forming a Wikimedia Chapter.
Please note that in some circumstances it may be possible (or necessary) to go about chapter creation in some other way. You might want to consult the Affiliations Committee about variations in procedure.
Step 1: Gather the people
At the very fundamental level, chapters are about people – a group, bound geographically, which wants to contribute to and support the Wikimedia projects as a whole in a way which includes other means than editing.
The laws of your country may require a given number of people to participate in the creation of a corporation. Make sure that your group has the required number of people before proceeding.
Also, for long term sustainability of the chapter, the Affiliations Committee recommends that you gather a community of at least 20-25 people interested in creating or joining the chapter.
Step 2: Develop your Goals and Structure
When you have your minimum group of people, you should start a conversation on your future chapter's goals and structure. Try these questions as inspiration:
- What do you want to accomplish as a chapter? What is your mission?
- What kind of activities do you want to engage in (e.g. outreach, fundraising, public relations, publishing)?
- What kind of structure do you want for your organization? Is there a board and a membership assembly?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of your board and your assembly? Who gets to decide what?
- How do you imagine your organisation in a two-years' time? Five years'?
In determining your goals and structure, you may also want to contact existing chapters for advice and inspiration.
Step 3: Run a pilot program (Optional step)
So, you have some interested Wikimedians, and you have some basic idea about the kinds of activities your group would want to have as an officially recognized Wikimedia Chapter.
This is a perfect time to run a pilot program, which will give your group a concrete experience with running Wikimedian activities/events, strengthen the group's internal cohesion, increase motivation, and potentially draw in additional activists.
Here's a little secret: Nearly all activities and programs performed by chapters can be performed by non-chapters. Aside from fundraising and certain types of government outreach, any group of Wikimedians with the will and dedication to execute a program can do so, and the Wikimedia movement has some resources in place to help you do so:
The Wikimedia Foundation can grant you ad-hoc permission to use the Wikimedia trademarks (i.e. Wikipedia logo, Wikimedia logo) in your specific event/activity; the Foundation can provide funding for your program if required, via the Wikimedia Grants Program; other Wikimedia chapters can offer funding, advice, and other intangible resources.
So pick a program you'd like to run in your community or territory, making sure the scope is manageable and achievable for your group and your resources (especially human resources, i.e. time and skills!), before proceeding with the legal aspects of chapter creation.
The Affiliations Committee and the Wikimedia Board of Trustees are more likely to feel confident about your group's suitability to become the exclusive formal representative of the Wikimedia movement in your territory if your group can show at least one success in organizing Wikimedian work.
One example of a non-chapter group running a pilot program is the proposed Belgian chapter. They organised WikiLovesMonuments in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It enabled them to get into contact with governmental organisations and extend the group of interested people.
Step 4: Draft your chapter's fundamental documents
Your chapter's bylaws (statutes, or whatever the name of this document is in your language) should define the goals and objectives of your association in time and space. They should be precise and to the point. Avoid definitions which are either too vague or too restrictive.
When drafting the documents, you need to take several factors into account (in the order given below):
- the laws of your country
- the primary goals of your organization should be in line with those of the Wikimedia Foundation, i.e. to promote free content and support the Wikimedia projects.
- where possible, a non-profit status (or a status that allows you to tend towards non-profit)
- avoid ties to political statements/groups that do not fit within the scope of Wikimedia projects
In order to make sure that those are observed, we advise you to inspire yourself first from bylaws of other organisations in your country and then adapt those to the Wikimedia requirements and guidelines. Do not try and translate existing Wikimedia chapters' bylaws, as legal differs from one country to another and what seems evident in one country may make no sense in another.
If you have a lawyer in your group, make sure he/she is a strong part of the writing process, remember that you are ultimately responsible for the legal compliance of your organisation with the local laws.
Step 5: Apply to be approved
When your chapter's goals and organization are agreed upon and your documents are ready (but before you do anything that would make the association official, like opening a bank account, holding a founding assembly, registering with your country's authorities etc.!), you should translate them into English and submit them to the Affiliations Committee for approval.
The Affiliations Committee might ask for a lawyer approved translation of the bylaws, in which case it will provide the necessary budget to translate the bylaws.
The Affiliations Committee will review your applications and then will submit them to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation to approve the creation of your organization as a Wikimedia chapter.
After you have received the approval of the Wikimedia Foundation, you can go on and register your association as per is standard in your country. You will need to sign a chapter agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation. Note that at this stage various other agreements may be signed between the Wikimedia Foundation and the chapter as it is being created.
Step 7: Get some money
By this time you will probably need some money. You may have to pay some registration fees, set up a bank account, etc. The first source of funds should be the community behind your organization (e.g. if you have set up a membership organization, now is the time to collect membership fees).
If you require more money than you can reasonably hope to gather from your group, you can ask the Affiliations Committee to provide you with some additional funding to get you on your way. The Foundation also issues chapter grants.
The money (or your time) is necessary even if the registered chapter does not do anything. Usually after you registered the legal entity you need to prepare and provide regular reports to the state tax authorities and some other state bodies. Even if there are only zeros in the reports.
Step 8: Go!
All done! You can now go about chapter business and promote Wikimedia projects in your country.
If you want some hints about possible projects, you can always look at what other chapters have accomplished or are currently doing.
Remember, you can always ask the Affiliations Committee as well as other chapters for help.